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tv   Democracy Now  LINKTV  October 24, 2013 9:00am-10:01am PDT

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we felt that we were gonna take over the world, make real change and things were gonna be different. this was the time to make it. this was going to be it. so there was a great deal of urgency in that. we're still in love with film, but we're not as ambitious and none of us are single. annenberg media ♪ and: with additional funding from these foundations and individuals: and by: and the annual financial support of:
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hello, i'm john lithgow. welcome to "american cinema." what do the directors of "star wars" and goodfellas" have in common? they both went to film school. yet when the filmmakers of this generation graduated they had no plans to work for the studios. in fact, if hollywood was on their minds at all, it was as an example of what to do differently. the first feature of a filmmaker from usc named george lucas had a title that read like a license plate, "thx 1138." a film with striking imagery, it perplexed studio executives.
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he later made "star wars." the first feature of a filmmaker from nyu named martin scorsese was picked up by an independent who changed its title and put it in local theatres. it didn't last long. he later made "goodfellas." steven spielberg, francis ford coppola, brian depalma. though their early work was not mainstream hollywood, their later work would ultimately represent what hollywood did best, with works like "e.t.," "the godfather," and "the untouchables," blockbusters. we are going to look at a band of filmmakers who thought they could change the world, and they did. "the film school generation."
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(whizzing of rockets) (music playing) (screams) don't try it. buddy, look, the lady obviously doesn't want -- look, creep, you want a knuckle sandwich? (narrator) in the beginning, however,
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only two things distinguished them from old hollywood. they have beards, and they almost all went to film school. (steven spielberg) i never went to film school. but when i went to royce hall one day to see a film festival of combined ucla and usc student films, that's when i first saw george lucas's work, thx 1138, and i met george that day and i realized there was an entire generation coming out of nyu, usc, ucla and i was kind of an orphan, abandoned in long beach, at a college that didn't really have a film program. so i even redoubled my efforts at that moment to attend those two universities. and every time i went in with my application for transfer, they kept saying, no, your grades aren't high enough. and then i remember one teacher at usc said, "you're probably going to vietnam anyway." well for me, before i went to film school i was interested in maybe becoming an english major
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or becoming an anthropology student. i wanted to go to art school and become an illustrator. those were the options that i was playing with. i didn't know very much about film at all. i was interested in photography and it was really out of my interest to become an illustrator. i ended up at usc film school, didn't know anything about it. i thought: this might be interesting. (george lucas) i got in there and within a month i had discovered something that i loved, something that i was very good at. i was learning the techniques of filmmaking and i learned them very fast, in a period of 18 months. i learned about animation, screenwriting, directing, about camera, about editing. a whole range of techniques and i learned it very fast. and i think that was a real advantage because when i got into the film business, i could work as a cameraman, as an editor. i could work as a writer. eventually i became a director.
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(staticky voice over intercom) (loud ringing sound) (staticky, unintelligible voice) (john milius) george lucas, i remember, did the first film. he spent his money to do the first film in color. that was a big breakthrough, somehow he'd gotten the navy or somebody to process it. he would take their money and their allotment of film and try and make the longest possible film, which was often just hideously boring. but they did achieve something, it was long. (music playing) feeling big never feels bad. money, pictures and sex, it's kind of the same, it's interchangeable. sometimes i don't know whether it's sex and pictures that i'm working on, or pictures and sex. you know, i just really don't know, like, you know. well, when you've got an interchangeable medium...
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it's interesting that coppola who is the eldest of the group, went to ucla, a film school noted for more personal cinema, as opposed to usc which was always seen much more as a film school gearing people to the industry. their films -- ours were trying to be professional and imitative of hollywood. theirs had beautiful nude girls running through graveyards. that was a standard scene in any ucla film. (john milius) they were i guess you could say more left-wing, more far out. they used more powerful chemicals. and they smoked stronger things. (japanese music playing) (martin scorsese) the reason i went to new york film school is i was living in new york. we were totally separated from the main part of the industry, which was california and hollywood.
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we always felt the students on the west coast, usc or ucla, in a funny way were -- this was our imagination -- i think to a certain extent it may have been true, too. they were out in the same city. they might have more ability to feed into the industry. and to a certain extent, the type of films that were made by california students, they looked better in a sense. they were slicker, but not in a bad way. i mean in a good way. they had more command of craft. whereas in new york, if we got an exposure we thought that was really good. if something came back, it was great. (martin scorsese) technique was not as important as what the film had to say. (music playing) (brian de palma) we really were making street movies. marty was making movies about the lower east side, the italians of the lower east side.
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we'd have seen all the 16-millimeter documentaries that had shown us things we'd never seen before. and in the combination of the crazy things going on in the theatre with grotowski and environmental theatre and interacting with the audiences and that strong black movement, and anti-war movement. so all this stuff was churning around in one's consciousness. (brian de palma) this whole new way of involving an audience in a kind of visceral way they'd never done before. (policeman) what's his real name? (yelling) how does he know? freeman, martin freeman. i know him. my name is zinn, murray zinn. (overlapping dialogue) c'mon, martin! aahh! aahh! aahh! and the only thing we could do was try to express ourselves on film the way people around us were doing. we'd hoped that that would lead to making films in narrative.
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when we were in film school there was absolutely no chance of making it into the hollywood film industry. and nobody even considered it. the most chance we had was as a disneyland ticket-taker. well, at the time all these directors emerged, there was actually no way they'd be hollywood employees. hollywood was very much a closed industry those days. and the way in to theatrical filmmaking was via roger corman. and coppola was the first one to work for him and later, scorsese. corman provided the model for independence they wanted. his big advantage was his output deal that he had with american international and some television companies. anything that he produced they would put on the air. it didn't matter what it was, as long as it was long enough. he realized more than anybody working in commercial industry that there was a lot of talent amongst film students.
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they would work inexpensively. and work very hard. "who's that knocking" was shown in california, only the theatre manager didn't like the title, so he changed it, which was a good idea. and roger corman saw it, or people who worked for roger. and roger was always looking for new, young talent coming out of universities or anywhere in california. he offered me the sequel. the sequel to bloody mama, which was "boxcar bertha." (john milius) the thing that applied well from student filmmaking to that kind of filmmaking was to make what you had go as far as it was possible, to try and get it to look as much like a bigger film as possible. and to never sit there and say, "i need more." i'd like to withdraw my entire account. (woman) your entire account? yes, ma'am, the whole thing. (woman) your name? john dillinger. (woman screams) hold it right where you are, this is a robbery.
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i look at it today and it looks real crude. but i didn't feel terribly constrained when i did it. the things that i liked and wanted to put into it, the sense of the land and the kind of folk tale told in a john ford vista, that's all free, that's there. (woman) johnny! (john milius) you just have to be inspired by "the searchers" or something else good to steal and i didn't need a big budget. (harmonica playing) in those days, that was the end of the 60s, the studio system, which had had such force in the 30s and 40s and had difficulty in the 50s, was really nearing the end of its thrust. but it was still in place wielding considerable power and held things in a considerable inertia.
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so the option of 25-year-old's who were interested in film was not as clear as it is today to get into the industry, because once you got in, it was kind of unnerving how sclerotic it was. the studios were still turning out films like "darling lili" and "they did paint your wagon," where clint eastwood and lee marvin got to sing. (peter biskind) they were all trying to repeat the success of "sound of music" and "my fair lady," with little success. and a lot of the studios were close to bankruptcy. some studios were put on the block. a number of executives lost their jobs. and there was a real fear in the executive suites because they weren't sure what people wanted to see. particularly what young people wanted to see. (peter biskind) "easy rider" came in 1969, cost $500,000. made by nobodies.
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dope, unhappy ending, hippies, long-hairs. i mean it cleaned up, it was a huge hit. and it was really a revolution. these old guys in the studios had not the foggiest idea of why this film was so successful, or what was going on. and all they knew was dennis hopper directed it. so they grabbed onto the directors as saviors. although that's a film -- i wasn't part of that culture, but it did open a lot of doors for many people in california. and at the same time, giving you the chance behind the camera and almost a deification of the director. (man) "rain people" are people made of rain. and when they cry, they disappear altogether. (narrator) one such deified director was francis coppola. coppola's dream was to run his own studio, to be called american zoetrope. where did you hear about the rain people? i don't remember.
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were they in a story someone told you? no, it's true. (woman) did you ever see them? (walter murch) francis wrote a script involving a cross-country trip. it was an existential leap into the unknown. in fact, they wound up in nebraska. and they said, "if we can do this in nebraska, there's no reason we'd have to be in hollywood." it was 3 or 4 months after that francis had made the decision to set up american zoetrope in san francisco. francis wants to own everything that he needs to make a film. he wanted to own the cameras, own the lights and sound, own the editing machine, and the building. he didn't want to have to answer to anybody. he wanted to be able to mount a movie 2 days after he thought of it, if he, if he wanted to.
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that grew to a bigger version, later in the 70s, where he came back to hollywood and bought this studio, (fred roos) this physical old studio. that was the second incarnation of his zoetrope dream. every time i've seen a studio in different travels, you know, "ardmore in ireland" and my first impulse is to want to immediately buy it and bring a lot of people there and start it going again. but there are a lot of forces that work against that. i'm all for studio-based pictures. (teri garr) it's like we were in "gypsy," and he was our mother. and whenever these people came in that had the money, he'd say, "dress up real, and do the scene for them." "here's what i'm doing, and give us some money." and then they did. and then he'd spend it all. he had many more ideas. he said, "eventually we're all going to be owners in this.
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we'll put under contract, and in the parking lot, we're going to put a beautiful commissary with a glass roof." and his imagination just was going on and on to stuff that wasn't really relevant to making the movie. but he had this wonderful idea and it just never works. in a way, francis attempted to be all of our godfathers. and to this day he calls me, little stevie spielberg. you know, i love it, but only he calls me that. but he would always have us sitting at his feet listening to the way movies should be made, because francis, of our entire group, he was actually a generation before mine, but francis was the first young guy ever to make it. (staticky unintelligible voice) (walter murch) francis had a development deal with warner brothers. so the first film that zoetrope produced under this agreement was "thx 1138," which george made at usc.
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the challenge was to take a student film, which was 20 minutes long and expand it into a feature, a story that had a beginning, middle and an end, and yet had something of its crazy futuristic vision. i was very involved in nonlinear filmmaking and non-story, non-character driven scenarios. and i felt this was a chance to sort of push the envelope, to do the kinds of films that i had done in film school and do it on a grander scale. we kept saying that this is not a film about the future, it's a film from the future. (echoing squishy sounds) (walter murch) so there are things in the film that are mysterious, that we don't bother to explain because in the future, everyone would understand this.
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but, you know, it still has a car chase. it still has a romance. it has an escape. (george lucas) when i made "thx," i knew it was going to be controversial in terms of what the studio wanted. they gave me the chance to make the movie. they didn't really understand it. it was the opportunity of a lifetime. and i even said to francis, "i'll never get a chance to make a movie like it again, i'm going all the way with it. and if it destroys my career, that's what's going to happen, i'll never get this shot again. so i took it. this was the time to make it, if there was any time at all, this was it. so there was a great deal of urgency about that. and a lot of energy. we did everything and anything to get in there. pain in hell has two sides: the kind you can touch with your hand, the kind you can feel in your heart, your soul,
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the spiritual side. and, you know, the worst of the two is the spiritual. (jonathan taplin) marty knew every setup, every shot, and he had it all drawn out so he could literally show his cameraman in pictures how the shot would look. we were doing 28 setups a day, which is phenomenal. (loud music playing) he had thought out almost every single tracking shot and it became his signature. and we just left the camera on the dolly all the time. so every move had a little bit of choreography. marty today is much calmer than he was then. marty was about to burst at any minute in 1973.
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i didn't even think the film was going to be released. i just got the money and i thought it was great. and maybe some day they'll be showing it. but i doubted it would get on the screen. i borrowed money all over this neighborhood, left and right, from everybody and i never paid 'em back, so i can't borrow no money from nobody, no more, right? so who does that leave me to borrow money from, but you? we went to warner's at lunch and it was in a screening room. there was an executive there named, john calley, who is really responsible for many interesting pictures from that time. i borrow money from you cause you're the only jerk-off that i can borrow money from without paying 'em back, right? and about ten minutes into it, a waiter comes in with a tray. literally right in the middle of the picture. and says, "who's got the tuna on rye?" and marty is just dying. they're not watching the film, they're trying to figure out their lunch order. and this was just typical hollywood arrogance.
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come on, come on, come on. come on, come on, f--- face. and calley comes and sits down next to me and we were both dying, and he says, this is the best movie i've seen all year, but i have to take a leak. do you mind stopping it? and "where's the button?" and so he went back and then we started. we finished the movie and he got up and he said, "we're buying this movie." as soon as the film came out, as soon as it was released, it was around the same time as "american graffiti." and our picture, a few weeks later went into the ground buried forever to an extent, except that then it came out on tv and things like that. people still stop me in the street about it. (martin scorsese) but "american graffiti" was the overall, across-the-board, a real american memory, nostalgic piece.
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(nrator) george las' "arican graffiti" was a massive surprise hit. it cost less than $1 million, and earned over $55 million. any time a film comes along that is different, there is a risk. the risk is nobody's going to get it, or the other risk, which is the good side is, the studio is behind the curve and this film is in advance of the curve, with the audience, and it was a surprise. that's what happened with "graffiti." the audience was more ready for the film than universal in 1973 thought they were. (george lucas) it was an exercise in learning the craft of storytelling and the craft of character development. but even then i pushed the envelope very far and it was so far out the studios didn't like it. they didn't want to do it. "this is just a musical montage, it doesn't mean anything." but it was as straight and as conservative as i could get at that time. when you read the script of "graffiti,"
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at the top of every scene was the usual things. "exterior parking lot, mel's." but then there would be the name of a song that george was playing when he wrote the scene. ♪ sixteen candles ♪ (walter murch) the problem was that this was for every scene in the film, which is 45 scenes, which meant 45 songs. up till that point, no film contemplated anything like it. we developed something in sound that photography's always had, which is depth of field. there are things in the front that are well lit and in focus and there are things in back less well lit and out of focus. (screeching tires) (roaring engines and background music) (gary kurtz) wewe knew we had to approach it in a semi-documentary style.
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so for instance, at places like mel's drive-in, what we did was go around and change the light bulbs into photo floods and replace neon with new neon. most of the neon had gone. and that was really the lighting style. with a little bit of movie lighting thrown in where necessary to boost it up. but 80 percent of the lighting was real. (gary kurtz) inside the cars, we used a slight booster light of minimal kind to bring it slightly above ambient light. (george lucas) i was basically a documentary filmmaker from the streets. "american graffiti" was a kind of a documentary film in a dramatic context. i was actually in film school in the 60s, in 1965, 1966. it was the beginng of all of the youth movements that were going on around the world. and the film departments were no different. we felt that we were going to take over the world, that we were going to make real change and that things were going to be different.
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i think what happened sort of in the mid-60s was it was the decline of the major studios, the rise of the independent filmmaker. and a sort of change in the intellectual attitude of college students in america, especially. those students that wanted to write a great american novel changed into those that wanted to make a great american movie. well, the people i was hanging out with then would go and see films like "the 400 blows" and we all just went, what the hell is that? that's a whole new feeling. and it leaves you stunned. how can we get hollywood people that are making movies like those elvis presley movies that are making a lot of money, come around to do movies like that? and i think eventually it all melded together. a little left turn here and a little right turn there and finally, i mean, people listened. well i think actually they were all influenced by the new wave. the range of influences on them is actually quite vast.
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milius discovered "kurosawa," when he was surfing in hawaii. in fact, de palma in the late 60s was talking about wanting to be the american godard. i think truffaut, antonioni. (lynda myles) from "the conversation," "blowup's" an influence. so i think they absorbed a lot of influences from world films. the first and foremost were hollywood films. that was the main thing, i grew up experiencing those. ford and hawks. victor fleming. hitchcock. welles. british films. david lean. godard and the new wave. godard. truffaut and godard. godard and truffaut and louis malle. philippe de broca. michael curtiz. francesco rossi. the first bertolucci films. antonioni. visconti. pennebaker, leacock. shirley clark. the maysles. john cassavetes. (ricocheting bullets)
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(jazz music playing) (peter biskind) all these kids were steeped in old hollywood movies, the movies of john ford and howard hawks and particularly in hitchcock. films were filled with homages to one director or another, and often entire films, particularly brian de palma's beca reworkings of hitchcock's films. surprise. hey, now you know you're not supposed to cut the cake until you make a wish and blow out the candles. well, i was very interested in that period of my career of learning how to express as clear in images as possible. and many directors of course are drawn to hitchcock. so i patterned something on very much like "psycho" and then created ways of characters observing others
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and following each other and learning specific hitchcock vocabulary. (loud, disturbing music) what is cinema and how do you express things in purely cinematic terms without trying other forms, which are, basically, me talking to the camera. (loud, disturbing music) it did become a limitation and even somebody like de palma would say later in the 80s, after working off good scripts, like "scarface," "untouchables" and "casualties of war," i think he eventually realized he needed a stronger grounding in script than he recognized, 5 years, 10 years earlier.
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it's boring when every film student or most of the audience that was semi-literate, just sit watching a film and saying, "that's the shot sequence from 'psycho,'" or "that's the burnt homestead from 'the searchers.'" i mean, it's not interesting. and i think, again, if you were to analyze in fact all the films this group made, the most interesting films, i think, are the most personal, not the borrowings, but the ones that are rooted more in their own experience. and i think with milius, i think his best film was "big wednesday," which is absolutely rooted in the time he was a surfer in hawaii and in california. (lynda myles) you can discuss "big wednesday" in terms of ford, obviously, this sense of mythologizing the past. but it's totally imbued with his own past and experience.
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(orchestra music playing) it was a very important film to me at the time because that was a part of my youth. and i thought that that's what a filmmaker should do is explore personal things that you know. there's a cliche that everybody has one good story, the story of their life. and when you are starting out, those are the stories you write about. and i think that was considered to be the proper thing to do. that's what socially responsible people did.
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you addressed your life and your issues. (robert de niro) loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. in bars and cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. there's no escape and he dies a lonely man. at the beginning of the 70s when the studios had no idea of what to make, if a director came in with a project and said, "this project will make money," the studio won't say no. and so suddenly directors -- kids who learned in film school that the essence of directing was self-expression got to make their movies for the first time. it had really never happened before. you could never make a movie like "taxi driver." it was amazing "taxi driver" got made within the system. i and scorsese and de niro all had success in other films. and so then it got to a point where columbia said, "if everyone is saying somebody should make it,
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why don't we make it? the price is right, it's low. we'll take the chance." so the difference is that even though that was hard, the studios did make those films. you make the move. it's your move. outside of whatever charisma de niro has... you talkin' to me? i can't think of anybody less sympathetic than travis bickle. you talkin' to me? you'd cross the street to get away from this guy. then, who the hell else are you talking to? plus it ends with this unprecedented carnage, which is extraordinary, even now. i watched the film a few months ago and it's still probably one of the most violent scenes in american cinema. (whispering) pow, pow, pow. any studio in their right mind would be mad to make that film
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and yet the film did very well. only in the 70s. i would differentiate a lot between what marty was doing and what i was doing and what george lucas was doing and steven spielberg was doing because george and steven really came from a populist, middle-american point of view and wanted to make movies that would move everybody. and marty wanted to make movies that moved himself. i think there's another contradiction in all this, which is that when you look at a director like coppola, committed in all sorts of ways to -- in his own work and through zoetrope, through the work of others, to making personal cinema, i think it's arguable that his "commercial movies" like "the godfather," are of a more personal nature than his so-called art movies.
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we've known each other years, but this is the first time you ever came to me for counsel and for help. i can't remember the last time you invited me to your house even though my wife is godmother to your only child. but let's be frank here. you never wanted my friendship. and you were afraid to be in my debt. the first few days of brando, i recall bob called me, saying, "are we going to subtitle this? cause marlon talking like this and we didn't know what the hell he was saying." on top it, the opening scene where he was petting the cat, that cat was a cat laying around the studio. and so the cat started purring and all you heard was the cat purring and brando mumbling something. and they start freaking out. (al ruddy) and it was dark. and it was very unsettling to people on the west coast. (man) i believe in america. america has made my fortune.
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when we were mixing the movie, he asked bob evans and said, "if this movie does over $60 million, will you guys buy me a car? a mercedes?" we both said, "absolutely, if it makes $60 million, we'll buy you a mercedes." the day the movie did $60 million and one dollar, i got a call from the president of mercedes-benz north america, who wanted to substantiate that in fact i was going to pay half for a special car that mr. coppola had ordered. and i said, "had ordered?" he said, "we're only going to build three next year. one for franco and for the pope and one for mr. coppola. those cost like $70,000. (narrator) in january 1973, with box office earnings of over $81 million, "the godfather" became the biggest grossing film of all time.
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francis and george lucas and steven spielberg did become the dominant force in hollywood for a number of years. and still are the dominant force in hollywood within one way or another. it was a generation that had its finger on some very specific pulse. but i'd differentiate francis from lucas and spielberg who really were just kind of tapped into the american psyche. with spielberg, you see, it was a different thing. he comes from television. and we met in the early 70s. but he was a very different kind of person. when i turned 19, i made a movie in 35-millimeter called, "amblin." and that movie was seen by the then-head of t.v. at universal studios, sid sheinberg, who is now head of the studio. he saw the film, was impressed, asked me to come to his office. and he sort of bedazzled me by offering me this seven-year term contract and attempted to put me to work
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directing professional television shows. bill, step back this much. (steven spielberg) if i did learn one thing from t.v., it taught me to think quickly on my feet. to prepare, to plan, to know what i want to do when i get to work so i can accomplish the job. and t.v. for me wasn't an art form, it was a job. because of television, i didn't know for a while there whether or not i wanted to continue making film, because i felt that it was like working in a sweatshop. and i wasn't getting any of that stimulation, that gratification that i got making 8-millimeter war movies when i was twelve years old. i didn't have that passion, because television sort of smothered the passion. it's only when i got into feature films, when i got into t.v. movies and made "duel" that i kind of rediscovered the fun about making films. what's your name, sir? david mann. spell that please? m-a-n-n. that's two n's.
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i'd like to report a truck driver who's endangering my life. your name again? david mann. (blaring horn) (steven spielberg) "duel" was a film that was discovered overseas. i remember taking my first trip to europe. i'd never been out of the u.s. before. going to europe the first time to do publicity for "duel" and discovering a lot of people out there who loved movies. i'm talking about journalists, the writers, loved movies. cherished films. much more than i ever sensed that the american journalists loved and cherished pictures. but i was sort of idealized and idolized and lionized. and i felt wonderful about that and i said to myself, "gee, there really is a generation overseas that loves movies with a passion." he once mentioned to me that he liked to make -- there were films and there were movies.
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and he liked to do films. unaware he'd be the biggest moviemaker of all time. (dramatic music playing) that's a 20-footer. "jaws," because it came from a number one best-selling novel that universal gave a little more topspin to the advertising program. but no more so than they gave to the other 12 films they had coming out that year. i know that they didn't spend any more money on that film than they did on any other film in terms of publicity. only after "jaws" was a hit the first week in theatres did universal begin chasing the success to keep the film in the awareness of the public. (yelling) get everybody out!
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(narrator) it was the massive, world-wide success of "jaws" which put the blockbuster movie firmly on the map. (peter bart) people didn't really talk about blockbusters much then. that was an idea that began to take shape in the early to mid-70s. the public doesn't realize that the character, what makes the picture a blockbuster is the willingness of people to see it two or three times, like "star wars," or "jaws." there are not enough people who go to movies out there to make something a $100-200 million picture unless you see it: does that have an audience? so by the mid-70s the industry was traumatized. the pot of gold began to take shape. and studios began to say, "ah-ha, can't we open a picture in more theatres and spend more to advertize?" and the whole interior dialogue in studios was distorted
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and i think corrupted irreparably. (heavy breathing) (buzzing) i made "star wars." it was a very difficult film to make. and a lot of problems involved. it was with very little money, very little time. i finished it, i showed it to my friends. they said, "oh, gee, george, i really feel sorry for you. this is too bad. better luck next time." and then it became an even bigger hit. but i had absolutely no idea that it would be a blockbuster. i have you now. what? yahoo! (paul hirsch) it opened a year after the end of the vietnam war. and i think the country had gone through such a trauma, of being divided. the left against the right, the pro-war and anti-war were at each other's throats for so many years and with such bitterness that everyone was looking for
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an opportunity for something they could share in common and feel good about and unite around. (poof!) (paul hirsch) george told me that, what i'm really making here is sort of like a disney movie. so he said,"disney films always make $16 million. you could look at every picture they've ever released, they make $16 million. this picture is costing around ten, so there's no way we're going to break even on the film. but i think that with the merchandising of products related to the film, we may be able to break even." (peter bart) "star wars" for the first time brought in the concept that a film represented a franchise. that every movie could be sold in all of its little parts. there were products. there was product placement.
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every movie became an industry unto itself. that was something that no one envisioned, say, in 1970. i can remember at the time of "carrie," which was a success, but not a blockbuster, that there was a sense with de palma that he was obviously pleased by the response to the film. but frustrated that, i think, possibly because he thought the marketing hadn't been quite strong enough. that he thought "carrie" could have done more. it was an extraordinary desire to emulate the others and have this phenomenal success, which i suppose he had later with "the untouchables." (brian de palma) you can't really be that experimental or that odd or follow your muse to some absurd end, if you're trying to open in a thousand theatres or two thousand theatres and $30-$20 million a weekend.
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so that's a bit of a problem. and once you get that fever, it's hard to get it out. every time a studio chose to make a film with me, they had hoped that the film would be on the economic level of, let's say, "the godfather," or like a "jaws." although, my films are very, very different. and i didn't quite believe it. i just kind of realized after "new york, new york" that it wasn't going to be that way. (yelling) did i tell you to have that baby? did i tell you to have that damn baby? no, i didn't, you had it. now you have it, now keep it. that's it, keep hitting me. go ahead, hit me. that's right. you had it. now you're crying? oh, be quiet! when it gets tough, you cry? and then the lifestyles sort of get a little crazy too, where you start to really be -- you're doing ten things at once
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and pouring your energy into places it shouldn't go. overdoing it in every level. and somehow you come out alive. i was alive two years later, but it was quite horrendous. (theme music to "new york/new york") (peter biskind) the phenomenal amounts of power and this success that was showered on some of them, like coppola, between 1972 and 1974, with his oscar for "patton," through "godfather i," through "the conversation," into "godfather ii," was unbelievably successful. i mean, i don't think anybody, even spielberg, subsequently had that kind of intensity
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and incandescence for a two-year period. and the effects on someone's personality who has to live through that kind of thing is enormous. and then going off to make "apocalypse now" in the jungle for 2 or 3 years, that tends to isolate a person. to me that symbolizes the best of filmmaking and the biggest risk in that you take a subject matter that's kind of taboo, get a script you believe in. and you get a madman and say, "here, take this money and go to some distant part of the world and see what you're going to come back with." (gunfire and explosions) (eerie music playing) (unintelligible loud voices)
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(john milius) but unless you take the risk and say to someone like francis who's capable of doing something really great, "here, go off and push the edges of the envelope, do the best you can and let's see what happens," you're never going to make that kind of film. films cost more to make today than they ever did before. it means that the bigger ideas, if i ever wanted to do "the greatest show on earth," like cecil b. demille, that picture today is almost not affordable. you almost couldn't go off and make a picture on the scale of "the greatest show on earth" without spending between $65 and $85 million. so the pressure's on. every time you make a movie, even a small art film is costing $15 to $25 million. so it's not easy anymore going back to the old days when you got more bang for your buck. the amounts of money riding on a picture are so great that it tends to impede the creative process. you don't want to take those risks because you're afraid you'll lose your shirt.
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one film can kill a studio. and that essentially, that's what destroyed the 70s. i found myself after star wars, one, it was very difficult. i had no money, i was under a lot of pressure. i didn't like not having complete control of everything, which i did have on "graffiti" and i did have on "thx." i edited them, photographed them, wrote them. i did the whole thing. and i had control. if anything went wrong, i pushed the guy aside and said "i'll get the prop." (george lucas) with "star wars," i couldn't do that, it was way too big so i relied on a lot of others. so after i finished "star wars" i knew with the success of that that i had a chance to finish the saga, because i had this three-part thing. only i knew when i finished "star wars," i wouldn't have the energy and the control by directing it because i was down there in the trenches directing. there was too much stuff going on above me that would sabotage the effort. so i moved upstairs and became executive producer.
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it was like other ideologies that failed like communism or something. i mean, it's a great idea and you can believe in it. it's very glorious to run up the steps of the presidium bearing a red flag but the bureaucracy takes over. and in that case, the idea was that these young filmmakers were going to be able to express themselves. and they were going to have -- be filled with great ideas that would change the world and give us great works of art. when in fact, they had no great ideas at all, or any ideas at all for the most part. (john milius) and only gave us greater explosions. these days, it's a matter of: yeah, the film will make money. it really should. but if you feel it's not going to, if you feel it won't make money like "goodfellas" made money, which i didn't think would make money, but it did, or "cape fear,"
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then you have to be prepared to cut your budget down, so the studio takes less risk and it's tough on me. well, it's my problem. i have to find a way to get the picture made and say what i want to say. i felt then and feel now that the important thing is -- is to keep working and making interesting films. and even if that means working at lower budgets, (paul schrader) working for cable television, so that's the important thing. one opportunity has presented itself after another. and i've kind of moved along. if you had asked me 2 years ago if i'd be producing tv shows, i would say, "absolutely not. i never will go into tv." and here i am doing television. (george lucas) i have no idea where my life is going to take me. whatever feels right is where i go to. it was a golden age of filmmaking because we were all single, ambitious, in love with film.
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and we're still in love with film, but we're not as ambitious and none of us are single. and i think once we started getting married and having kids we began to fraction. and then we began to divide. and we went into our own lives and our own lifestyles. when i had a family, i know that the amount of time i talked to george, francis and marty on the telephone was cut down in half. and as i went from one to five children, now we have to make a conscious effort to re-unionize and get together. now i'm sort of in my family, into my life in a homey way. (steven spielberg) but when i was in my 20s and they were in their 20s, we were all kind of married to each other. as you get older, it's more "here we go again." the struggle's on. is the fish going to eat me, or am i going to eat the fish? and there was some kind of camaraderie back then
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and i guess you were not -- you also felt immortal. the fish could never completely eat you. but as you get older, and you feel your feet and legs being bitten off, you begin to wonder: are you going to survive this one? i still feel i'm part of the hollywood system because in the end, that generates all the money. and eventually it filters down through independent films. but you have to respect the engine. and the engine is the commercial film industry. i mean, i remember once rather humorously having a conversation with george lucas. and george was saying that he wasn't hollywood because he lived up in mill valley. and i said, "george, i hate to break it to you, but you are hollywood."
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annenberg media ♪ and: with additional funding from these foundations and individuals: and by: and the annual financial support of:
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for information about this and other annenberg media programs call 1-800-learner and visit us at www.learner.org.
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funding for this program [with captioning] was provided by:
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additional funding is provided by: and: narrator: each video episode has three parts. watch the program, read your book, discuss the program and... rebecca: ♪ that would be enough, enough for me ♪ ♪ everybody needs a dream catcher ♪

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